Happy Valley shows darker side at night

THE sun was shining and the sound of laughter filled the air at Happy Valley as families came out to play yesterday. But the popular Caloundra destination takes on a very different appearance each night.

This is one of the places where the homeless converge to sleep rough.

Who they are and what drove them onto the streets will soon be uncovered following the launch of the State Government's Home for Good program.

The latest available statistics from the 2011 Census show more than 750 Sunshine Coast people regarded themselves as homeless.

About 130 of them were living on the streets.

Minister for Housing and Public Works Tim Mander said the Home for Good program would uncover the "true number" of homeless people on the Coast and also aimed to provide tailored support through a new registry system.

"Putting somebody into a home is only the first step in dealing with the problem," Mr Mander said.

"The underlying causes, like domestic violence, addiction and mental illness don't just disappear once people have a roof over their heads."

Queensland Council of Social Service will oversee a team of volunteers, who will take to the streets across the region to speak directly with the homeless.

QCOSS CEO Mark Henley said the campaign would ensure future decisions regarding homelessness were better informed and based on accurate, local data.

"The results will enable us to prioritise individuals and families who need urgent assistance for housing and ongoing support," he said.

Leading the call for volunteers is 17-year-old Kaylee Thomas, who is no stranger to the uncertainty of where to find shelter each night.

It was less than a year ago that she found herself homeless and couch-surfing at friends' places, until she turned to the Integrated Fam

ily Youth Service, who helped her into a shelter for five weeks before finding her long-term housing through Coast2Bay Housing Group.

The driven teen is now working two part-time jobs so she can focus on her Year 12 studies at Chancellor State College and has almost completed a Certificate III in Youth Services.

Miss Thomas said she was looking forward to connecting with others who were facing similar situations she had overcome.

Mr Mander said the targeted approach of the $900,000 project would produce "real outcomes". "Home for Good is about identifying the factors then putting in place a response tailored to meet specific needs," he said.

To volunteer, see www.homeforgood.qld.gov.au, or to access help call Integrated Family and Youth Service on 5438 3000 or Coast2Bay on 5451 2900.

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